To the laddies!

I’m not even sure where to start this post…it seems wildy random I know! Essentially I was in a client meeting in the rather awesome Caledonian Brewery in Scotland (years ago) and we were discussing Burns Night. I’d never attended an official Burns Night celebration or really knew what that involved but was happy to mark the occasion with a tasty tea of haggis, neeps and tatties. We’ve Scottish ancestry in our family and even a Blaylock tartan (my maiden name) so I’ve always felt like I’ve had some sort of Scottish connection. However nothing could’ve prepared me for the question or rather request which came next. “We’re looking for someone to do the “Response from the Lassies” – queue blank expression on my face but trying to politely smile. My boss at the time, who is in fact Scottish, smiled and animatedly carried on the conversation with the client as they reeled off the list of names volunteered for the various speeches traditional for a Burns Night supper. The next minute of fast-paced chat seemed to end with the words…“I’m sure Charlotte would love to do the Response from the Lassies.” You know that moment when you’ve zoned out slightly in a meeting because quite frankly everyone is talking about something you know little of in an overly familiar manner at about 90mph in a thick Scottish accent…that.

Anyway my boss totally downplayed the significance of such a commitment on the train journey home whilst I frantically googled what this is all about. I can’t for one minute claim the response you see below is all my own handiwork, there was a lot of copy and pasting going on from various other speeches I’d googled so apologies for the serious amounts of plagiarism, I wouldn’t be scoring top marks if this was a Uni essay. Anyway it turns out there were plenty of other people who had unwittingly agreed to write and recite the same traditional Burns Night Response so there was plenty of inspo online. A response I might add which is expected to be tailored to your specific event, reference people in the room, be a response to the Toast to the Lassies and most horrifically…make people laugh. (Many a sleepless night ensued worrying about people staring at me blankly with not even a glimmer of a smile let alone a laugh!) My fab family also helped out after a pleading message to the all-family Whatsapp so there’s some seriously random lines here from them too. 

So if you’ve never been to a Burns Night picture the scene – room full of people (in this case my clients, their colleagues and various other invited guests) drinking and eating delicious food, traditional poems celebrating the life of Robert Burns and a very animated tartan-clad man weilding a sword whilst leaping round the room doing the Address to a Haggis. The latter is an absolute feast for the ears and the eyes and a performance I shall never forget. So anyway my time came, I stood, I spoke (slower than I think I’ve ever spoken in all my life) and thankfully there was laughter. In hindsight I feel honoured to have been a part of the evening and not to have made a total fool of myself. After the formalities were over and everyone was ordering another round, a young Sales Rep from Yorkshire came over and said – your speech was amazing and basically the only thing I’ve understood all evening – which did make me laugh. Annoyingly I can’t find my final copy of the speech but did come across this draft version which looks to be mostly all there, minus a few more references to people in the room, so without further ado… oh and yes in the shot below the person looking pensive at my speech attempt is best selling crime writer Ian Rankin… no pressure….

I’m straying from convention so please bear with me. I’m not a poet by any stretch of the imagination but seemed fitting as we celebrate the life of Scotland’s beloved bard…. 

As I start my speech this evening 

I hope my reply won’t be a failure 

I expect no outcry from rabble rousers 

You might all look great in your regalia  

But tonight, laddies, I’m wearing the trousers 


A man deserves to be rebuked 

(A lass is ne’er to blame) 

Actually there’s two culprits   

The first, Colin is his name 


Don’t think you’re off scot free  

The second, they call him Mitch 

He smiled and with a look of glee 

Asked of me just this… 


‘I would be honoured’, he said  

‘If you’d do the ‘Reply” 

‘On behalf of Lassies’, he said 

So casual, by the by. 


Thus, I tentatively spoke  

To say that would be fine 

It’s a shame that I had no idea 

Of the stress that would be mine 


I’d thought this speech was something quick 

that I could find online 

And print off, just before I came 

And read out, at this time. 


Yet only a few days ago 

To Mr Google’s aid I turned 

He said I had to write my own! 

None was supplied by Mr Burns 

The ‘reply’ required a lot of thought 

It was to be new each time 

It wasn’t something he churned out 

Not one of his five hundred and fifty-nine 


Yikes, I cried – this isn’t right 

This is an awful affair 

Have they any idea how long it took 

Just to work out what to wear? 


And glancing back at that webpage 

T’was with horror that I saw 

That grace and charm and wit were required 

Don’t you know me but at all? 


I stand before you a Yorkshire lass 

This the first Burns night I have been  

An experience I’d hoped to enjoy  

Beer in hand, not being seen  


But so I bravely battled on 

Back to Google’s help I turned 

My ever present buddy in life 

So much from him I’ve learned 


Reveal, he did, ‘Replies’ of lassies 

From Burns nights of the past 

Please picture the horror on my face 

On reading: 15 minutes it should last. 

Don’t panic tho, I quickly thought 

That this I’d just dismiss 

Fifteen minutes of me, I fear 

Is no one’s idea of bliss 


And furthermore it was revealed 

‘Men’ I must show as fools 

Whilst also referring to Roger himself 

Tell me – who makes up these rules? 


And what to say to show men up 

To make them sound less wise? 

A man can be a useful thing 

No woman will deny… 


They work so hard from dawn to dusk 

And still put dinner on the table 

And sort the kids and clean the house 

Oh… whoops – that’s us lassies that are so able. 


Some men think they’re still hip, 

With beaded necklaces and cool wheels 

Taking surfboards for a dip 

Even though they spend their life in sales  


But men can help around the house. 

When from watching the rugby they’re dragged 

And they can be good company 

They’re handy if you need a good nag. 


Though, like Shakey, pipe in when least expected, 

Interrupt us in full sway, 

Tempting to take his beer and utter 

“Stop piping up! Pipe off, I say! 


OK, ok, it’s said in jest 

I think men quite alright 

Despite conning me into doing this 

Or laughing at my plight 


And as for Burns that famous Scot 

A real one, not just in part 

T’was two hundred n fifty years ago he was born… 

And a bit later, he did depart 


The bit in the middle, it seems to consist 

Of flirting and being a tart 

But he sought out some time to write stuff down 

Which now is considered pure art. 


He was a huge champion of women 

He adored them, some would say 

adoring too many at any one time though  

That perhaps wouldn’t wash today 


My Nanny tells me of a tale, 

married and with child you see, 

but Gramps piped up pale-faced and dour 

a girl he did not want it to be, 


As his understanding of the fairer sex 

had caused him much anxiety, 

but there must have been a higher ploy 

as there came three daughters before a wee boy… 


But Burns it was a different story  

an impressive record he did set  

12 children by 4 women  

In 13 years no less achieved  

Some would say fine living  

Others would be peeved  


Without the aid of 

Or even that awful Tinder one 

He wooed with poetical words 

and even the occasional song  


But adore them he did,  

with poem after poem 

Dedicated to us lassies 

And for that we can forgive 


And bless him, it must be true 

He didn’t need some glasses,  

Said – “Mother Nature practiced making man,  

And then she made the lassies!” 


Sadly he lived only 37 years 

Just imagine had it been more  

So laddies count yourselves lucky  

That his isn’t the ultimate score  


But for all this jesting you must forgive 

For Burns was truly wonderful.         

An inspiring poet, Scotland’s national hero no less      

For that we raise a tumbler full 

I’d like to share a small snippet  

Delivered far better if                    

capable of a Scottish accent            

But in Yorkshire it sounds like this 


Had we never loved sae kindly

Had we never loved sae blindly

Never met  – or never parted –

We had ne’er be broken hearted


Well, my poem is done; it turned out to be fun 

My panic was clearly in vain 

But just so I’m clear, when you have one next year, 

Please don’t make me do it again!   


So, lassies of the room, I invite you to stand and raise                              

Your glasses to those gentlemen 

without whom we would ne’er be broken hearted, 

but without whom we would also never love or be loved so kindly.   


To the laddies!